Hungary and Poland would be insane joining the Eurozone

There was an interesting article (July 18, 2017) – The Political Fiction of Economic Control – that has, seemingly, been the motivation for people sending me heaps of E-mails, some, demanding that I admit that Modern Monetary Theory (MMT) is bereft in this specific area of discussion. The article was allegedly written by a Polish journalist with a past that included working at the “Adam Smith Research Centre”, a ‘free market (not!)’ think tank in Warsaw, and a Hungarian economist Lajos Bokros who was formally a Socialist Minister of Finance from 1995 to 1996. But there is a lot of first person in the article (I’m, My, I etc) and only Bokros’ picture and bio is featured. Bokros is best-known for implementing the controversial Bokros Package, which was a “a series of austerity measures” described as “neoliberal shock therapy” based on the erroneous assumption that the Hungarian government would run out of money and have to declare bankruptcy. So it is no surprise that these characters (or Bokros, if he really wrote the article) would support the Eurozone and claim that surrendering a national currency in the case of Hungary and Poland was inevitable if these nations were to progress. The arguments used to make their case, reappear over and over again. They are always incorrect no matter what form they appear.
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    Posted in Eurozone | 6 Comments

    There is nothing much that Milton Friedman got right!

    “If we want to ensure more people are well-employed, central banks alone will certainly not suffice” is a quote I am happy to republish because I consider it to be 100 per cent accurate. The only problem is that the way I think about that statement and construct its implications is totally at odds with the intent of its author, who claimed it was “an important lesson of Friedman’s speech”, which “remains valid”. The quote appeared in a recent Bloomberg article (July 17, 2017) – What Milton Friedman Got Right, and Wrong, 50 Years Ago – written by journalist Ferdinando Giugliano. It celebrates the Presidential Speech that Friedman gave to the American Economic Association on December 29, 1967 at their annual conference in Washington D.C. In terms of the contest of paradigms, the speech is considered to be the starting point proper of the Monetarist era, even though it took at least another 5 or 6 years (with the onset of the OPEC oil crises) for the gospel espoused by Friedman to really gain ground. The problem is that Friedman was selling snake oil that became the popular litany of the faithful because it suited those who wanted to degrade the role of government in maintaining full employment. It was in step with the push by capital to derail the Post War social democratic consensus that had seen real wages growing in proportion with productivity, reduced income inequality, jobs for all who wanted to work and a strong sense of collective solidarity emerge in most advanced nations. This consensus was the anathema of the elites who saw it as squeezing their share of national income and giving too much power to workers to negotiate better terms and conditions in their work places. Friedman provided the smokescreen for hacking into that consensus and so began the neo-liberal era. We are still enduring its destructive consequences.
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      Posted in Central banking, Economics | 8 Comments

      Germany fails to honour its part of the Greek bailout deal

      In this blog – The fiscal role of the KfW – Part 1 – I recounted how the government-owned German development bank, KfW (Kreditanstalt für Wiederaufbau) – interacts with the German Finance Ministry to allow its fiscal balance to move into surplus without the commensurate level of fiscal drag that would normally be associated with that degree of fiscal withdrawal. The intent of the blog was to show how the Germans cleverly use their state-owned development bank to advance ideological positions not available to other states that have either privatised these type of institutions or never created them in the first place. It is ironic given the Germans insistence that countries like Greece privatise everything in sight. Today’s blog returns to the KfW, in part, because new information has emerged where we learn that the Greek crisis has allowed the German Ministry of Finance to run surpluses without melting their economy down. The KfW’s role in that regard is undoubted. It has been a source of bailout funds for Greece, on behalf of the German government, and has been pocketing handy profits ever since. This information shows that the popular claims that German taxpayers are bailing out Greece are clearly false and just political verbiage. Further, despite the understanding that the Member States (bailout partners) would remit any profits made on asset holdings associated with the Greek bailout, the Germans have reneged on that deal, in part, because it has channeled those profits through the KfW, which it claims is at hands length to the government, despite being 100 per cent government-owned.
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        Posted in Eurozone | 7 Comments

        The Weekend Quiz – July 22-23, 2017 – answers and discussion

        Here are the answers with discussion for this Weekend’s Quiz. The information provided should help you work out why you missed a question or three! If you haven’t already done the Quiz from yesterday then have a go at it before you read the answers. I hope this helps you develop an understanding of modern monetary theory (MMT) and its application to macroeconomic thinking. Comments as usual welcome, especially if I have made an error.
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          The Weekend Quiz – July 22-23, 2017

          Welcome to The Weekend Quiz. The quiz tests whether you have been paying attention or not to the blogs I post. See how you go with the following questions. Your results are only known to you and no records are retained.
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            Posted in Saturday quiz | 4 Comments

            Australian labour market remains in an uncertain state

            The latest labour force data released today by the Australian Bureau of Statistics – Labour Force data – for June 2017 shows that while total employment rose only modestly (14,000) the strong rebound in full-time employment from last month continued (up 62,000). Part-time employment fell sharply though (48,000). As a result of a rise in the participation rate (0.1 points), unemployment rose by 13,100, although the official unemployment rate was steady at 5.6 per cent after the ABS revised it upwards by 0.1 points from the May result. The broad labour underutilisation remains high at 13.9 per cent with unemployment and underemployment summing to 1,795 thousand persons. The teenage labour market also deteriorated further in June and remains in a poor state. Overall, my assessment of the Australian labour market is that it remains in an uncertain state. There is no definitive trend yet.
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              Posted in Labour Force | 5 Comments

              Austerity will not work for France right now

              It didn’t take long from Emmanuel Macron to get started on his neo-liberal agenda. That should be no surprise, given he championed the insidious El Khomri Law when he was Minister of Economy and Finance in the second Manuel Valls Cabinet. In a major speech in Paris on Monday (July 17, 2017), Macron, demanded that local governments in France slash spending by 13 billion euros by 2022 as part of an effort to cut the French fiscal deficit. Why they would want to be cutting the fiscal deficit with growth creeping along and the unemployment rate stuck close to 10 per cent, among other problems facing the French nation is another matter. Clearly, they are under pressure from the Excessive Deficit Mechanism given that the overal fiscal deficit remains around 3.5 per cent (above the 3 per cent threshold) and doesn’t look like coming down any time soon. And it is clear that Brussels will not turn a blind eye to France, as it did for Spain when it allowed the deficit to rise to support growth as part of the strategy to get the conservatives re-elected. The elites in the Eurozone have their boy in power in France so no further political support is required. But austerity will not work for France right now.
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                Posted in Eurozone | 11 Comments

                A government can always afford high-quality health care provision

                The Commonwealth Fund, a New York-based research foundation that analyses health care systems, recently released an interested international comparison of the performance of such systems across a number of criteria (July 2017) – Mirror, Mirror 2017: International Comparison Reflects Flaws and Opportunities for Better U.S. Health Care. Health care is one of several policy areas where the debate descends into fiasco because the typical application of mainstream economics obscures a widespread understanding of how the monetary system operates and the opportunities that system provides a currency-issuing government. Once an understanding of Modern Monetary Theory (MMT) is achieved the choices available in health care policy become more obvious and better decision-making is likely. The Commonwealth Fund report provides useful information in this regard, although the MMT understanding has to come separately.
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                  Posted in Fiscal Statements, US economy | 12 Comments

                  British employers exhibit on-going greed but lie about it

                  One of the abiding and recurring trends, accentuated in the neo-liberal era, is the apparent ‘concern’ for the low-paid by the captains of industry. They continually warn against allowing pay increases for this cohort because they are – so the story goes – deeply concerned about the damage it will do to the employment prospects. What they really mean is that they know pay rises at the bottom end of the pay structure don’t alter employment levels significantly but have some impact on profitability. That is, they reduce profits a little. And that is the concern they are really expressing. The British Chambers of Commerce have called for a freeze on real wages for the lowest paid workers in Britain despite profitability soaring and the share of business profits in national income rising. The expression ‘where do these characters get off’ comes to mind. Although it is hardly surprising. British entrepreneurs tend to be lazy and take the easy way out when they can to further their own ends.
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                    Posted in Britain, Labour costs, UK Economy | 15 Comments

                    The Weekend Quiz – July 15-16, 2017 – answers and discussion

                    Here are the answers with discussion for this Weekend’s Quiz. The information provided should help you work out why you missed a question or three! If you haven’t already done the Quiz from yesterday then have a go at it before you read the answers. I hope this helps you develop an understanding of modern monetary theory (MMT) and its application to macroeconomic thinking. Comments as usual welcome, especially if I have made an error.
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                      Posted in Saturday quiz | 4 Comments